Pretty Space Pics: The Dragonfish, a Crowded Cluster of Super-Massive Stars

The Dragonfish

NASA/JPL-Caltech/GLIMPSE Team/Mubdi Rahman via SPACE

Today in pretty space pics: Using the Spitzer Space Telescope's knack for infrared imagery, astronomers have snapped an image of the most crowded grouping of supermassive stars ever spotted in the Milky Way. Dubbed the "Dragonfish," the cluster of stars, gas, and dust contains hundreds of the largest class of stars, most dozens of times larger than the sun.

The region takes its name from the huge hollow space blown out of the huge cloud of super-heated gas (glowing red in the image) that somewhat resembles the toothy maw of the dragonfish. The gap is something like 100 light-years across.

But more remarkable is that we can see the Dragonfish at all. We peer at star nurseries in other galaxies all the time. But it's really difficult to turn our eyes inward and get a good look at regions within our own galaxy because interstellar dust obscures our view. In fact, the stars you see here are huge and very, very bright, yet they don't appear as brilliant as some of the stars in other images regular readers have seen here for exactly this reason.

Thanks to Spitzer's IR eyes, the University of Toronto team that captured this image was able to peer through the cosmic fog and get a pretty good look at the architecture of one of the most interesting stellar regions in our own galaxy. Click on through to SPACE below for more detail and a super-hi-res look at the above.